Dramaturgy in the Venisamhara

by Debi Prasad Namasudra | 2016 | 70,412 words

This page relates ‘Artha-Prakritis (five elements of plot)’ of the study dealing with the Venisamhara of Bhatta Narayana and its practical application of Sanskrit Dramaturgy. The Veni-Samhara is an extraordinary drama in Sanskrit literature which revolves around the great war of Mahabharata within six Acts. This study deals with the author, background and the technical aspects, reflecting the ancient Indian tradition of dramaturgy (Natya-Shastra).

Artha-Prakṛtis (five elements of plot)

This chapter deals with some technicalities of dramaturgy in Veṇīsaṃhāra, such as, Arthaprakṛts, Vṛtti, Rasa, Vṛtta, Arthopakṣepakas, Hero and Herione, Patākāsthānaka, Language and Saṅdhi.

Collateral to the five stages of action, Bharata lays down similarly five elements of plot known as the Artha-Prakṛtis which form the very substrata of the dramatic story. They differ from the Kāryāvasthās inasmuch as they represent subjectively what is displayed by the latter objectively. These elements are the germ (bīja), the drop (bindu), the episode (Patākā), the incident (prakarī) and the denouement (kārya).[1]

1. Germ (bīja) is defined as the cause of denouement which is manifested at outset in very small form, but gradually expands in manifold ways as the action proceeds. This is the first element which corresponds to the first stage of action. This is, therefore, called the very seed of the dramatic theme. For example, Duṣyanta’s attraction at the first sight of Śakuntalā, or the enthusiasm of Yudhiṣṭhira ignited by Bhīma’s wrath in the Veṇīsaṃhāra or Cānakya’s zeal to win Rākṣasa for Candragupta, his protégé in the Mudrā-Rākṣasa may be cited as the illustration of the germ in a dreamatic plot. Bīja is, therefore, the source of action which is always placed minutely at the outset and which develops at regular intervals and culminates into the fruition of action.[2]

Matṛgupta looks at the bīja from three points of view, the consequence, the object and the subject of the action. The seed that develops into fruit is the Phala-bīja, the story of the play is the vastu-bīja, and the hero is, according to him, the artha-bīja.[3] According to Sāgarānandin there are three ways of setting in the bīja, namely, by means of equivocal expression. (Śleṣa), similarity of episodes (chāya), or direct statement (upakṣepa).[4]

2. The germ after being set in once in course of the plot gets for a while dislocated on account of the interruption of several synchronal events. After such a dislocation due to extraneous circumstances, there comes up, as it were a, drop of certain matter which again helps the germ to shoot up and prevail in the plot. This sudden drop caused by some animate more or an action of a character in a play is called “Bindu” which is defined by Bharata as “the cause of resuming the main purpose of play, when it gets interrupted. It continues to do so covertly right upto the end of the play.[5] The Daśarūpaka denifes it as the cause of resumption of the original theme at the close of some subsidiary even that intervened it.[6] There are various interpretations suggested for the metaphorical sense which has given the title of Bindu to the second element of the plot. Dhanika calls it Bindu because it spreads over the plot like a drop of oil on the surface of water, thereby suggesting the extending capacity of this element.[7] Rāmacandra and Guṇacandra adopt this analogy in their exposition of the term.[8] More in consonance with the definition, at any rate, is the explanation offered by Singa Bhupa who suggests that just as a drop of water often sprinkled at the roots of a plant results in the fruit-bearing, similarly such matter as awaken the main cause, if often dropped in, promote the denouement of the play.[9] Thus Bindu is a wide-spreading element.

Summarising all these views Kohala makes the idea very clear when he says that Bindu is that occasional reference to the main mofit of action which is, at times, side-tracked on account of digression creatd by introduction of subplots or other under-currents in a play.[10]

There is a school of thought referred to by Sagarānandin which hold that the Bindu consists in a constant–say, almost in every Act and Juncture–reminding of the main urge behind the action.[11] The said urge may be prompted by reasons of love, insult or enthusiasm which may be found respectively in the erotic, retributive,[12] or heroic themes. That the gradual loss of opponents or failure of the impeding stock becoming continually perceptible presents the element of Drop is the observation of the same thought from another angle of vision made by some other scholar cited by Sagarānandin.[13] Sāradātanaya states that Bindu owes its origin either to perverseness or to some adversity, the former resulting from anger and the latter from sadness.[14] The view is altogether novel and does not find any support in Bharata or any other canonist noticed above. From the point of view of the constitution of the drama also, it seems both baseless and irrelevant as is shewn by the compiler’s omission in illustrating his classification. All the same, Rucipati seems to have some such authority in his mind as Saradātanaya has, which makes him believe that the Bindu may be available in the nature of perturbance, flurry or mental agitation (udvega). He further believes that the reference to Bindu should be sought in almost every Act of the play.[15]

3. & 4: The third element of the plot is the Patākā, and the fourth one is the Prakarī which are discussed under the heading of the subsidiary plot.[16] The Patākā and the Prakarī are considered to be enternal (nitya) or necessary limbs of the dramatic action and they are advised to be inserted as far as possible (yathā yogam).[17] Authors like Singa Bhupāla and Viśvanātha insist on the use of these elements in a drama unless it becomes almost impracticable to have them. Yet there are oft-quoted expressions found in different glosses which declare that the elements of the Patākā and Prakarī are of optional use.[18] The Nāṭya-darpaṇa, however, agrees to the latter view. At any rate it should be distinctly understood that in case the Patākā and the Prakarī are missing then it stands without mention that the element of Bindu will prevail in those dramas to a very wide extent so as to cover the stage of Endeavour, of Prospect of Success and also of Certainty of Success.

5. The fifth element of the plot is the denouement or the Kārya which depicts the cause or the motif of the play. It is the Kārya of which the attainment is desired, for which all efforts are directed and the achievement of which closes the action.[19]

The objects of achievement which constitute the denouncement of a play are the three objects of human existence as noticed above; and the Kārya is said to be simple if it deals with one of them (śuddha) or mixed (miśra) if it is associated with one or more objects.[20]

The Nāṭya-darpaṇa opines that the use of the five elements may be made freely -darpaṇa opines that the use of the five elements may be made freely (yathā-ruci) and does not believe in the existence of these elements at sequence. Their order could be reversed according to him. The order that her chooses for them is bīja, Patākā, Prakarī, Bindu and Kārya,[21] which is not acceptable to other dramturgists, especially to those who believe in the Coambulation theory of Junctures.[22] He considers the above pentad not as the sources of plot but only as the main object. According to him such cause is twofold: animate and inanimate. The latter is again sub-divided into the principal and the sub-ordinate. The germ is the principal one, since everything else depends on it and the denouement is the sub-ordinate one, perhaps due to the reason that it is attained as a result of the cumulative efforts of all other factors. In the opinion of other canonists, however, the order seems to be reverse. According to them the Kārya is the principal on inasmuch as it is, in fact, the real point of acquisition and the very fruit of all action. Then again, the Nāṭya-darpaṇa classifies the animate cause into two kinds, the principal and the auxiliary. There the principal one is the drop (Bindu) which bears the thread and watches the development of action. The auxiliary is also of two types according to the achievement of the purpose of some one else. Out of these two sets the Nāṭya-darpaṇa[23] considers the Bīja as the most promiment of all the inanimate causes and the Bindu among the animate ones.[24]

The drama Veṇīsaṃhāra contains Arthaprakṛtis which has the five elements like Bīja, Bindu, Patākā, Prakarī and Kārya as refelected in the above discussion.

Footnotes and references:


Nāṭyaśāstra XIX-22; Sāhityadarpaṇa VI-64; Mālatī-Mādhava p. 60, 27; Nāṭaka-lakṣaṇa-Ratnakośa 131; Bhāva Prakaśa p. 204, 21; Nāṭya-Darpaṇa p. 28.


Ibid. et seq; P. R. p. 106, 5; Daśarūpaka I-17a.


Chaya p. 296–note 1.


Nāṭaka-lakṣaṇa-Ratnakośa 139.


Nāṭyaśāstra XIX-24; Sāhityadarpaṇa VI-66; Mālatī-Mādhava p. 61, L1. 4-5; Nāṭya-Darpaṇa p. 32; P. R. p. 106, 6; Daśarūpaka I-17b; Nāṭaka-lakṣaṇa-Ratnakośa 164-5; N.R. p. 103, 15; Bhāva Prakaśa p. 204.


The text of the Daśarūpaka is “avantarartha-vicchede bindur accheda-karanam”, which is translated by Dr. Haas as “when the secondary matter is interrupted, the cause of it sbeing resumed is the Expansion (bindu)”-(Haas Translation of Daśarūpaka (Col. U. P.)–p. 8 bottom). Here it may be submitted that the translation of the term “vicche” as “interrupted” and the solution of the compound “avantarartha-vicchde” has presented a misgiving of facts. For it is not the resumption of the secondary matter which is done by Bindu, but it is the resumption of the germ or the original principal matter (bīja), which got, as a matter of fact, disturbed by the introduction of a secondary matter in the drama; e. g., the appearance of Gautami in the first act and then the proposal of the General for going ahunting dislocated the theme of Sakuntala and the King’s attraction for her in the Abhijnyana Sakuntala. After such dislocation or interruption due to the introduction of the secondary matter, when there is once again the resumption of the pursuit of Sakuntala, there comes in the drop, Bindu or the Expansio. Therefore, if the term “viccheda” in the phrase, then “avantarartha-vicchee” is to mean interruption, as is intended by Sagaranandin and Abhinava Kālidāsa and done by Dr. Haas, the compound will be instrumental, meaning “interruption by the secondary matter” and not of the secondary matter”. Or if the expression “viccheda” is to mean “end or close” as is interpreted by some commentaries, then it will be a genitive (shashthi) compound conveying thereby the sense that at the close of the sendary matter when the principal matter is resumed by the sudden drop of the action proper, it becomes Bindu. Hence the proper translation would be, “at the end of the secondary matter, the cause fo resuming the principal one is the Expansion, which is in keeping with Dhanika’s lines would be, that “the Bindu is that prominent element which is the cause of rejuvenating the germ at the end of some subsidiary action which served the main theme from further progression”, and it may be illustrated from the Ratanvali where after the completion of the adoration of Aphrodite which set the main theme aside, the reference to Udayana resumes it and expands it for further development in subsequent stages of action.


Avaloka p. 5, Line 15.


Nāṭya-Darpaṇa p. 46, Line 20.


Rasārṇava-sudhākara III-12.


Kohala as cited by Bhāva Prakaśa p. 204, LI. 13-14.


Nāṭaka-lakṣaṇa-Ratnakośa LI. 173–178.


Ref. Veṇīsaṃhāra as a specimen of retributive impulse.


Nāṭaka-lakṣaṇa-Ratnakośa 183.


Bhāva Prakaśa p. 204, LI. 15-20.


Gloss on A. R. p. 13 last line and top of p. 14. It may be added here that Rucipati also quotes the definition of Bindu from Nāṭyaśāstra of Bharata with a quaint reading “phala-viccheda-karanam”, which is incongruous unless “phala-viccheda” is to mean “culmination”.


Vide Pp. 50-52 supra.


Bhāva Prakaśa p. 205-5.


Nāṭya-Darpaṇa p. 46-14. For further details Vide pp. 91-93 infra.


N. XIX–27; Sāhityadarpaṇa VI-69; Daśarūpaka I-16b; P. R. p. 107-2; Nāṭya-Darpaṇa V. 33; Rasārṇava-sudhākara III-17b-18a.


Mālatī-Mādhava p. 61, LI. 8-9.


Nāṭya-Darpaṇa verse 25. For details vide Pp. 72-77 supra.


Vide page 90 infra.


Nāṭya-Darpaṇa p. 42, LI 2-3.


Cf Matrgupta as cited in Nāṭaka-lakṣaṇa-Ratnakośa Line 470.

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